What’s Happening On Saturn’s Moon Titan?

Yesterday, we wrote about the wonderful images Cassini captured of Saturn before it plunged into its atmosphere. The photos display the majestic gas giant with its icy rings. Cassini was launched in 1997 and was orbiting Saturn from 2014 until September 2017 when it approached its atmosphere enough to immerse into it. Aside from the 42 wide-angle images Cassini captured, it observed the planet, its icy rings and its moons, which is why we have so much information about the planet and its surroundings. Thanks to NASA’s Cassini, we have some interesting information about Saturn’s moon, Titan, that is entirely covered in methane.

Saturn's Moon
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

A group of scientists from the University of Bristol has conducted a new research which reveals some interesting data about Saturn’s moon, Titan. For example, Titan has rather an unpredictable nature. Cassini observed the satellite and the data shows that the hot spot near Titan’s pole had swiftly changed into a frigid polar vortex. This data is opposite of what the previous scientists’ predicted. Scientists believe that the reason behind the behavior of Titan’s pole is because of the chemicals located in the satellite’s atmosphere.

“For the Earth, Venus, and Mars, the main atmospheric cooling mechanism is infrared radiation emitted by the trace gas CO2 and because CO2 has a long atmospheric lifetime it is well mixed at all atmospheric levels and is hardly affected by atmospheric circulation,“ Dr Nick Teanby, lead author of the study, explained in a statement. “However, on Titan, exotic photochemical reactions in the atmosphere produce hydrocarbons such as ethane and acetylene and nitriles including hydrogen cyanide and cyanoacetylene, which provide the bulk of the cooling.”

Scientists used a model, which is based on the information which was gathered by Cassini, and it helped the team determine that a mix of chemicals that are located over the polar region can result in frigid temperatures.

The study, which has been published in Nature Communications, describes that the behavior of Saturn’s largest natural satellite, Titan, is odd to us, but it helps understand the behavior on exoplanets and moons that are located outside of our Solar System. This study may help the study of planets far away into the future.

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